Summer 2003

Pre-trip activities:

Fitted a windscreen wiper on Alastor's glass windscreen (ex-VW Beetle rear window), but didn't get a chance to try it as it remained dry. The previous year (2002) we had had a miserable run in the pouring rain getting to Nanaimo, so a wiper seemed like a good idea - I could stand in the companionway and steer with the autopilot remote.

Built a coldbox cooled by a Peltier device under the chart-table seat. This was inspired by the apparent cool temperature of the locker under the bathroom sink, compared to the "ice box" in the galley, which seems to be warmed nicely by the engine. Originally, I was going to cool the hot side of the Peltier block by conduction through the hull, but this didn't work too well. Eventually I decided to cool it with engine intake water, so there is a copper pipe soldered to a copper plate with the Peltier device clamped to it. The device is taken from a small electric fridge. The coldbox has styrofoam and aluminized bubble-wrap as insulation.

The trip

2003 was one of my biannual pilgrimages to Helby Island, where I own a few acres of undergrowth and trees. Brian, a friend from the UK, joined me for the trip out, leaving from Victoria on the way back for a bit on non-sailing visit before flying back home. We had a variety of sailing conditions - calms, dense fog, strong wind and brilliant sunshine on different days. Getting into Port Renfrew early in the afternoon of August 21, we tackled a few miles of the notorious West Coast Trail, hiking up some of the ladders and returning along the beach. The tide was in, so we were reduced to wading around the rocks in our underwear on one occasion. Doing the whole trail requires booking in advance, and carrying 60lb backpacks up hundred-foot wooden ladders and across makeshift bridges for 4 days.

Augus 23. We met Suzannah and our daughters, who had taken the ferry and driven across, in Bamfield. With 6 of us on board I had made an extra berth out of a bit of plywood above the ends of the two berths in the fo'csle which worked well for our youngest. The kids seem quite happy in there reading or playing for hours.

From Bamfield we sailed to Helby Island and the Broken Group, where I managed to run aground by Dodd Is. at the entrance to one of the many quiet anchorages. A fellow sailor offered that the kids could watch a video on his 50ft ketch "Windrover" while we messed around placing logs between Alastor and the rock. No damage that I could see, and fortunately quite calm, so we floated off with the tide on a foggy night and anchored where we were, being unable to see anything.

Leaving the others to drive to Victoria, Brian and I set off down the coast in somewhat foggy conditions. The wind picked up and we had a good two days sail down to Race Rocks, where the fog was now quite thick. With Loran and echo sounder, plus Brian's handheld GPS, we were confident of our position, and the visibility was good enough to see other small boats (we were well out of the main shipping lanes), but we heard several calls for help on the VHF - one, as I recall, was "we are in 200ft of water and left Race Rocks half an hour ago". The wind picked up and we charged out of the fog towards Victoria, which was in full sunshine. Looking back, the fog was a solid wall behind us. Coming into Victoria Harbour entrace, I lost my hat overboard. It had a float on it, but the sea was too choppy and we were too close to the entrance to reverse our course properly.

Victoria was very busy with a Classic Boat Festival, and we could not moor opposite the Parliament buildings as usual but stayed at the fisherman's marina instead. We met Suzannah and the children and visited a dinosaur exhibit at the museum. Brian joined the others in the van to drive back home while I sailed Alastor alone the last two days.

After anchoring at Winter Cove as usual, I tried diving in Georgeson Passage with a safety line. The passage is a narrow gap between two islands, with about 4 foot depth at low water. The trace on the depth sounder suggests a sharp ridge sloping steeply on both sides, and I wanted to see what it was really like and make a note of the profile. However, the tide picked up and it was very difficult to swim across the current. Also, the visibility was not that good. It was quite fun, though, and I saw several fish.


My camera failed, and I didn't take that many anyway, having snapped all the lighthouses on previous trips.
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